DETROIT – Peyton Manning was cool and confident, lofting passes to teammates as if they were buddies in his backyard. The 39-year-old showed he still has it.
Manning converted on fourth down with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas with 5 seconds left in the first half. Then he threw an 11-yard scoring pass to Owen Daniels on a third down with 2 minutes, 28 seconds remaining, lifting the Denver Broncos to a 24-12 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday night.
Manning credited the coaching staff with using a pistol formation, giving him the ball in a short shotgun with a running back behind him, after he was under center for some snaps during the first two games.
"I imagine it will be part of the arsenal throughout the season," Manning said. "It gave us some help in protection."
Manning was sacked only once after taking seven sacks in the first two games.
"We protected him better than we have," Denver coach Gary Kubiak said.
Manning went 31-for-42 for 324 yards with two TDs and an interception. He joined Brett Favre as the only players in NFL history with at least 6,000 completions.
The last time the Broncos (3-0) won their first three games was in 2013, when they reached the Super Bowl.
The Lions (0-3) are off to their worst start since 2010, when they finished 6-10.Matthew Stafford had three turnovers, including a fumble and interception in the fourth quarter. DeMarcus Ware was in on two sacks, and Stafford was hit and hurried throughout Detroit's home opener.
"They're not handing out trophies after three games, and you can't be eliminated after three games," coach Jim Caldwell said.
Aqib Talib blocked an extra-point kick early in the second quarter to keep Denver ahead by a point. The Broncos also stopped a two-point conversion run, keeping them ahead 14-12 early in the third quarter.